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The Less is More Garden

Posted in From the Library on January 18 2018, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


The Less is More GardenThe Less is More Garden: Big Ideas for Designing Your Small Yard by Susan Morrison for Timber Press delivers what it promises—big ideas!

Very few of us have the perfect backyard or garden. In fact, most people who have outdoor spaces to garden are probably “tormented” to various extents by peculiarities of their yards. If part of the problem is related to space—too little of it, say, or an oddly-shaped plot—Morrison’s designs might be just what you need to find a solution.

Morrison’s designs are, as Steve Aitken notes in his foreword, enviable. They are tasteful, practical, and beautiful. How does she accomplish these spaces? Although site analysis is a crucial part of garden design, Morrison starts with three simple questions. What will you be doing in the garden? When will you be outside? Who will be with you? With user experience in mind, Morrison crafts spaces readers can easily imagine themselves entering.

For readers new to garden design, Morrison mostly offers inspiration. More experienced designers will be able to learn from Morrison’s designs and gain practical ideas about how to use space—not just small or oddly-shaped areas but all shapes and sizes—to best effect in a garden.

In design, constraints such as limited space often inspire creative solutions and great ideas. Morrison’s work is evidence of this premise, although I suspect she would shine in any setting.

Three Titles for Transforming Your Garden

Posted in From the Library on October 26 2017, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


Photo of Garden RenovationGarden Renovation: Transform Your Yard into the Garden of Your Dreams by Bobbie Schwartz for Timber Press is a practical guide to giving an existing yard area a “make-over.” Homeowners can use Garden Renovation to assess current landscapes and decide on redesign projects of varying complexity. Especially interesting is a section on evaluating current hardscaped areas such as driveways and paths. Refreshingly, little in the book is dedicated to “plant palettes,” making Garden Renovation singularly focused on landscape assessment from a higher level. 

In Garden Renovation Schwartz has created a resource for those who know that something in their landscape has to change but aren’t sure about the next steps.  Whether the solution is a DIY project or hiring a professional, Garden Renovation will teach readers how to assess a landscape and make informed decisions about its future.

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A Talk with “Good Garden” Guru Edmund Hollander

Posted in Adult Education on October 13 2016, by Samantha Fletcher

Ed HollanderCalled a “landscape guru” by Architectural Digest, and lauded with National and New York Honor Awards by the American Society of Landscape Architecture, Edmund Hollander is one of New York City’s biggest names in residential landscape design. He’s also an alum of NYBG’s School of Professional Horticulture.

Hollander designs gorgeous green spaces of repose from the Hamptons to Hong Kong. His award-winning work is recognized for its attention to detail—both in terms of the design and in the environmental appropriateness of each site. In advance of his October 25 lecture, The Good Garden: Thoughts on Residential Landscape Design at NYBG, we asked him to share a few thoughts on successful garden design.

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Three Questions with Three Summer Intensives Students

Posted in Adult Education on May 26 2016, by Jenifer Willis

wendy-ford-for-plant-talk
Wendy Ford in the Landscape Design Summer Intensive in 2015

The New York Botanical Garden puts the “intense” in “Intensive” this summer with accelerated educational programs that get students on their way to achieving career goals, learning new skills, and earning prestigious Certificates in Landscape Design, Floral Design, or Gardening. Three students who completed last year’s programs and are set to graduate this month sat down to talk to us about their experiences and how the Intensives made an impact on their lives.

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Spring Bulb Basics: NYBG Experts Answer FAQs

Posted in Horticulture on April 4 2016, by Joyce Newman

Joyce H. Newman is an environmental journalist and teacher. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden.


Daffodil HillTwo bulb experts, Michael Hagen, Curator of the Rock Garden and Native Plant Garden, and Marta McDowell, NYBG instructor, author, gardener, and landscape historian, recently commented on some frequently asked questions about the gorgeous spring bulbs now blossoming in the garden . Here’s what they had to say.

Q: What are some of the easiest spring/early summer bulbs to grow?

McDowell: Narcissus seem to be almost indestructible and with so many varieties, you can have them in bloom for almost two months. Other choices: Crocosmia—graceful in leaf and flower and blackberry lily (Iris domestica or Belamcanda chinensis). Great foliage, flowers, and seed pods.

Q: What are some of the most difficult bulbs to grow, aside from climate issues?

Hagen: Climate aside, the hardest to grow are the ones that our native ground squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, and gophers enjoy eating. Species tulips have been a particular challenge in the Rock Garden. If it’s a warm fall (and the chipmunks are not hibernating yet) they can be dug up and eaten right after they’ve been planted.

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Planting the White House Kitchen Garden with Michelle Obama

Posted in Children's Education on April 16 2015, by Matt Newman

Michelle Obama and Nare Kande
Michelle Obama and Nare Kande

Each year, as spring sets in and the ground thaws, First Lady Michelle Obama takes to the White House’s Kitchen Garden to replant it for the season. Naturally, she doesn’t do this alone! Tackling the task alongside the First Lady this year were several of The New York Botanical Garden’s own greenthumbs who’d made the trek down to Washington, D.C., as part of the Let’s Move! fifth anniversary.

Students Nare Kande, a fourth-grader from Harlem; and Sarala Beepat, a sixth-grader from the Bronx; joined Toby Adams, the Director of NYBG’s Edible Academy, to help plant radish seeds, bok choy, and other vegetables with Mrs. Obama on April 15. Each student has plenty of experience planting and tending the vegetable beds of NYBG’s Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden as part of our Children’s Gardening Program, so they certainly had the skills needed to help kickstart spring at the White House.

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Celebrating Native Plants: Profile of Larry Weaner

Posted in Horticulture on February 18 2015, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is NYBG‘s Gardener for Public Education.


Larry WeanerI recently attended a lecture at NYBG given by the naturalistic landscape designer and meadow aficionado, Larry Weaner, who chose an unusual and interesting topic to cover: “Assisted Plant Proliferation in the Designed Landscape.” He based his lecture on the premise that if you do nothing, things grow. The challenge for gardeners is to get the right things to grow. In this respect, Weaner, through his work on large-scale naturalistic landscapes, is highly inventive and astutely attuned to the workings of nature.

On some of his project sites, he encourages volunteerism by leaving sections of the meadow fallow for a year to see what makes its way into the wild patch. If the new recruit is desirable, he flags the seedling. Otherwise, it gets mowed down the following year along with the rest of the meadow. Weaner showed an image of a healthy elderberry that had found its way to a fallow section at the edge of a meadow. Sometimes, some of the healthiest and most robust garden specimens appear in this manner, starting surreptitiously from seed and being allowed to flourish.

My note-taking was fast and furious as Weaner went through a number of case studies of plants in their natural habitat. He spoke of the importance of knowing where and how plants proliferate in nature. With this knowledge in hand, gardeners will be able to replicate the desired results.

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Giving Herbs the Space to Succeed

Posted in Horticulture on November 18 2014, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is NYBG‘s Gardener for Public Education.


Sage and thyme in an NYBG planter
Sage and thyme in an NYBG planter

I was watering containers around the Café one weekend in September when a woman stopped me to ask some questions about herbs. She had seen the large containers of parsley on display and was wondering what we did to keep the plant so healthy.

She explained that she had purchased parsley this summer and had placed it on her windowsill in her kitchen. It was not as verdant and vibrant as ours, and she was wondering what she had done wrong. I explained that our container displays comprised several plants to create a lavish appearance, but it was not simply quantity but also the size of the container that produced the bountiful display.

For your herbs to thrive, they need ample space to grow. Herbs are generally sold in spring in small, three- to four-inch pots. The small sizes of the pots are convenient for growers and it keeps the price down. Once you bring it home, the herb will need a bigger home so the root system can expand to support the plant.

If the herb is to be placed on your windowsill within arm’s reach of your cutting board, you probably won’t be able to repot it in a larger container, but even bumping it up to a six-inch pot will make a world of difference.

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“P” is for Parsley

Posted in Horticulture on November 5 2014, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is NYBG‘s Gardener for Public Education.


Curly Parsley Petroselinum crispum Young Flowers
Photo © 2009 Derek Ramsey, via Wikimedia Commons
Parsley’s Latin name originates with the Greek petros and selinon, meaning “rock” and “celery” respectively. The biennial herb was given this name since it likes to grow in rocky locations. With an equal love of well-drained or moist soil and tolerance for full sun or part shade, this commonplace addition to your kitchen arsenal is a versatile and hardy plant.

As a biennial, parsley comes up in its first year with foliage in full splendor, then it quietly overwinters and flowers the following season. A member of the Apiaceae family alongside dill, fennel, and lovage, parsley’s flowers are beautiful yellow umbels. The foliage in the first year forms a lush rosette which is often what you’ll find in the grocery store. In the second year, when it flowers, the foliage is sparse and elongated.

But despite its versatility and hardiness, parsley is notoriously difficult to grow from seed. I generally recommend that people soak their seeds overnight in lukewarm water to aid in germination. While parsley can sometimes take anywhere from one to six weeks to germinate, the soaking still helps speed up the process.

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Seed Saving: Simple Steps

Posted in Horticulture on October 7 2014, by Sara Katz

Sara Katz is the Community Horticulturist for Bronx Green-Up, the community garden outreach program of The New York Botanical Garden.


‘Redina’ red leaf lettuce bolts in the heat of summer, setting flowers and then seed to save.
‘Redina’ red leaf lettuce bolts in the heat of summer, setting flowers and then seed to save.

Along with juicy-ugly tomatoes, fresh herbs, and those peppers that made the best hot sauce, gardeners should harvest the seeds from their most prized plants of the growing season. In my Bronx community garden plot, one basil plant is reserved for setting seed, while the others are for eating with Arthur Avenue smoked mozzarella and in-season heirloom tomatoes.

Saving seeds carries on the work of our ancestors, who selected plant varieties using excellent foresight—and their taste buds. An ancient practice dating back to the Stone Age, the first saved seeds were part and parcel in man’s transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer. As plants began to be domesticated, varieties were selected for their flavor, beauty, resilience, and abundance.

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